Images that Matter
Despite cold and rainy weather, the first international short film festival in Addis drew an unusually large number of audience. Throughout the week from June 14 -19, the crowd began to assemble long before the show was to begin. People arrived singly and in pairs and in large animated groups. Around 100 short films from Europe, Brazil, Asia and Africa were shown at the National Theater in the day and night program. The event not only encompassed short and experimental films but also panel discussion, competition among East Africa filmmakers and red carpet premiers. One of the highlights of the festival was the appearance of former Somali supermodel and writer, Waris Dirie Jones who received a standing ovation at the opening night. Silencing the ovation with a slight wave of her hand, the supermodel expressed her delight on being part of the festival. Her autobiographical film ‘Desert Flower’ starring the lovely Ethiopian model Liya Kebede was screened on the occasion.
Much of the credit for the organization of the festival goes to the Paris-based and Ethiopian-born film director, Maji-da Abdi. Pairing with her husband, the renowned Mauritanian film director Abderrahmane Sissako, Maji-da has been working for years to make the project a reality. With the financial support of Culturefrance and the patronage of President Girma Woldeghiogis, the first edition of ‘Images That Matter’ has come to be realized. Maji-da said the intention is to ‘bring together the views, aspirations and expressions through images of the young from Africa and the whole world for better vision of our community”
Born in the charming town of Dire Dawa, Maji-da left Ethiopia at the age of four. She was raised in Nairobi and later in Canada by her parents who were working at the United Nations, giving her chance to be exposed to a wide variety of influences.
After her studies at the University of Western Ontario she worked for a Japanese T.V station 24HTV. Then she returned to Ethiopia to produce various documentaries for European television. She directed the documentary ‘The River that Divides’, which explores the wartime experiences of Ethiopian women. Her first fiction production was the Ethiopian short film ‘The Father’ by Ermias Woldeamlak.
Today she owns the Paris-based production company Chinguetty Films with her husband. They have produced multiple award-winning films `Bamako’ and ‘Waiting for Happiness’ by A. Sissako, ‘Abuna’ and ‘Daratt’ by Haroun M. Salleh among others. She is also the east African regional representative for FEPACI (Federation of pan-African Film makers.
Though Maji-da has been living far from home, she says Ethiopia is always in her heart. She sees a prospect for film-making in Ethiopia saying ‘Everything here is inspiring-landscape, beautiful people.” She also says she would do her best to support young people embarking in the world-of film making.
Talking about the festival, Maji-da says that she was overwhelmed by the number of people who showed up on the opening day, even if it was a World Cup season.”There was real excitement. It is a story of love, with all the friends who came to support the vision, such as the Franco-Moroccan director Daoud Aoulad Siad, the Ethiopian-American director Dr. Salem Mekuria and Tunisian editor Nadia Ben Rachid. It makes the adventure beautiful,” she said.
(In the photo Maji-da, Waris and Zelalem Woldemariam, Festival executive)